Melissa Bahen: Scandinavian Gatherings

11/30/16

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As many of you know, I am a Scandinavio-phile. I think I just made that word up, but essentially what I mean is that I love all things Scandinavian — traditions, folk pattern, vintage design, modern design, clothing, textiles, dishwater, architecture, etc, etc, etc. So I was so excited when my friend Melissa Bahen — blogger over at LuluTheBaker.com — published Scandinavian Gatherings: From Afternoon Tea to Midsummer Feast.

A little backstory: I first met Melissa last year, when she and her friend Joy invited me to speak at their Portland-based creative conference The Hello Sessions. I gave a workshop in 2015 at the conference, and this past year I was the keynote speaker. Melissa and Joy are two of the warmest, loveliest women I have ever met, and working with them was a great experience. This year at the conference, Melissa had copies of her then-very-new book Scandinavian Gatherings sitting on a table. I immediately swooped one up and began drooling over the contents. A few weeks later I had the privilege of interviewing Melissa about the book for my Interviews with People I admire series. Below you can also see some of the gorgeous images from the book. Know anyone who is in love with all things Scandinavian as I am? Hint: they might like this book for a holiday gift!

And without further ado, I present to you Melissa Bahen! We discuss many things, including her path, the story behind the book, the process of making it, and some of her favorite parts.

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Lisa: Melissa, I am so happy to have you on my blog. I’m especially excited about your new book. But before we get into that, I’d love for you to tell my readers a bit about you. Where are you from originally? What was your path to becoming a food blogger?

Melissa: Hi Lisa! Thank you so much for having me here today, and I’m delighted that you like the book! To tell you a little about myself, I grew up in Las Vegas, which is also where I met my husband, got married, and had my first child. After he finished grad school, we moved up to Oregon, where we live now. I would have been content to stay in Las Vegas forever because my job was there and my family was there, but my husband had spent childhood summers in Oregon and really loved it. And it offered us the lifestyle we both dreamed of: farming and gardening and living on some land. You really can’t get that very easily in Las Vegas!

I started Lulu the Baker in 2008 after joining a group called The Daring Bakers. I think it’s still going strong under the name The Daring Kitchen. It’s basically bloggers and bakers and food enthusiasts from all over the world who make the same “challenge” recipe every month. Some months have very specific requirements where everybody makes exactly the same thing, other months give you more flexibility in choosing flavors, etc. It was one of the original, online bake-along groups, and you had to have a blog to do it, so I started Lulu the Baker. I didn’t tell anyone I knew about it, but one day, one of my sisters left a comment on my blog saying, “I bet you didn’t think anyone would find this!”

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Lisa: That is a great story. I love the power of the internet! Recently you published a book called Scandinavian Gatherings. I just about fainted when I saw it because to say I am obsessed with Scandinavian design, culture and traditions would be an understatement! Tell us about how this book came to be. How did you think to create it? Why Scandinavian Gatherings? I take it you have Scandinavian heritage?

Melissa: I do have Scandinavian heritage! My mom’s dad, my Poppy, is full-blooded Norwegian. He was born here in the US to immigrant parents, and lived in Norway for a few years in his late teens. Then he and my grandma, Nana, lived in Sweden for 3 years when I was in college. My family has always been very proud of our heritage. As kids, my brother and sisters and I loved being Norwegian. It was the coolest heritage we could imagine!

My grandpa has always been a big idea man, and he said I should write a book about my Scandinavian heritage for an English-speaking, American audience. I thought it was a brilliant idea, and that was how the seed for the book was first planted.

Lisa: Tell us more about the book — what’s in it, what people can expect when they pick it up, and how people can use it.

Melissa: The book is a collection of recipes and projects inspired by the flavors, customs, and culture of Scandinavia. Each chapter includes menu ideas, recipes, and decor-related projects for a simple gathering inspired by a Scandinavian holiday or season. I was really passionate about having both recipes and projects in one book, because I think they go so beautifully together, and really present a full, well-rounded snapshot. They’re both equally important parts of entertaining. And I like cooking AND making things, so I was loath to chop out either of those aspects of the book.

Scandinavian Gatherings has really appealed to people with some Scandinavian heritage so far, or people whose partners have Scandinavian heritage. I’ve had more than one person buy a copy for each of their siblings, or all of their sisters-in-law, or their friend who just married a Swede. People love to explore their heritage. The book also appeals to readers like you who are really interested in the Scandinavian lifestyle. This book is a really beautiful, accessible way to get a little introduction to some Scandinavian flavors, some style, some traditions. And then for everyone else who doesn’t fit into one of those categories, it’s a really solid, lovely, well-made book.

There are great recipes for breakfasts, dinners, salads, soups, cookies, cakes–they’re all delicious and can hold their own even on an ordinary day where you’re not throwing some kind of party. If you just need a good cake recipe, it’s got several of those. If you want to try something new for dinner, it’s got delicious dinner ideas.

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One of the things my editor said early on in the process was to make things “aspirational but attainable.” I really tried to keep that in mind while I was developing both the recipes and the projects. Sometimes I read a recipe and think, “There’s no way I’m ever making that!” In Scandinavian Gatherings, there aren’t any cake mixes or pre-packaged ingredients, no short cuts, but everything is very doable, very approachable. Nothing seems too overwhelming or too scary to tackle, and the majority of the ingredients and materials should be available locally. I really wanted this to be a book for everyone.

Lisa: I am fascinated by the process of making books — the ideation, the writing, the editing, the art direction, the illustration — and what that’s like for authors. What was the process of making the book like for you? What parts did you love and what were the most frustrating? How long did it take from start to finish?

Melissa: The whole process was wonderful! And stressful too, but I enjoyed it and would do it again in a heartbeat. The whole thing came together very organically for me. After my grandpa gave me the idea to write a book about my heritage, I started writing down every idea that came to mind. I wrote them all down on index cards, and I wasn’t particularly picky about what I wrote down; everything made the cut! I kept them all together with a rubber band in my desk, and every time I’d get a new idea, I’d pull out a new card, jot it down, and add it to the pile. Eventually, I decided I needed to do something with the cards that would actually get me nearer to turning them into a book. So I started putting them in separate piles. I didn’t have any themes planned out or anything, I just put ideas that seemed to go together in the same pile. And after a while, the whole concept of holidays and celebrations and get-togethers just kind of manifested itself.

Making the book was a really, really long process from start to finish. I think it was at the end of 2010, when we were visiting my parents for Christmas, that my grandpa first talked to me about writing a book. As I said, it took me a couple of years to really figure out what I wanted to do, then a few more years to get a book proposal and sample chapter written, and then almost two years to the day from finding an agent to publication day.

Once I had a publisher, the turn-around time was actually crazy fast as far as books go. I think I had six months from the day I signed my contract to the day the first draft of my manuscript was due! I had opted out of doing the styling and photography for the book (thank goodness!), but had agreed to do the process photography (showing how to do specific steps) and make all the crafts for the photo shoots. And both of those were huge tasks! I would make a prototype of a project, text a photo to my editor, Hannah Elnan, and the art director, Anna Goldstein, in Seattle, and they would give me feedback.

Sometimes I got the go-ahead to ship the project up to the photographer, but most of the time I had to do at least one round of revisions. More often than not, it took many rounds. The hand-painted tray from the cover, for example, had the potential to be really cute, but just wasn’t coming together. After several underwhelming attempts, I had the idea to ask the illustrator, Andrea Smith, to design an image. My idea was to cut her design out of paper and decoupage it onto the tray. And it turned out really cute…until I tried to seal it, and then it was an utter disaster. So the night before I absolutely had to overnight it to the photo shoot, I bought a brand new tray, spray painted it light blue in my garage, and hand-painted the design onto the tray after my kids went to bed. I sealed it with acrylic spray the next morning, let it dry as long as I possibly could, said a little prayer that the fresh acrylic fumes wouldn’t melt the paint off the tray while in transit, and sent it off. And it turned out perfect! Now it’s in my studio looking pretty on my shelf.

I’ve been asked a few times about how I decided what recipes and projects to put in the book. Once I had settled on the gatherings layout, I looked at each chapter title and asked myself, “If I were hosting this get-together, what would I serve, and what little bits of decor would I make to go along with the theme?” For most of the chapters, I already had more than enough ideas to make a really full, lovely menu and a few cute projects. There were a few chapters with gaps, where I thought, “If I were serving this food, something would be missing. What else would I need?” In those cases, I looked for family recipes that would fit the theme nicely, and if I couldn’t find anything, I did a little research and asked friends with Scandinavian heritage for help. In a few instances, I just couldn’t find a recipe that felt right, so I created something new that fit the bill while still honoring the seasonality of ingredients, the flavors, etc.

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Lisa: Which section of the book is the most near and dear to you?

Melissa: Oh gosh, that’s a hard one! That’s like asking who my favorite child is! All of the sections were so much fun to put together. I really love the photography in the Heritage Dinner. I think the styling is just beautiful. And all of the recipes are classics. But the Nordic Brunch has so many long-time family favorites. If I had to choose solely based on recipes, I’d probably pick that one. And the crafts from the brunch chapter are super cute. I have to give myself a pat on the back for those. I actually created the Woodland Tea Party for the sample chapter that I submitted with my book proposal, so those projects and recipes have a special place in my heart because they’ve been around the longest. A lot of the projects from the photos in that chapter–the little toadstool garden picks, the felt garland, the tree trunk cake plate–are the ones I made 3 years ago to take pictures of for my book proposal!

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Lisa: What is your favorite recipe? Your favorite craft?

Melissa: Just off the top of my head, my favorite craft is the Danish townhouses from the Nordic Brunch chapter (see photo above). They’re intended to be used as place card holders, but you could use them to hold photos on your desk, menus, holiday cards, small art prints, etc. I was inspired by a picture of some Danish townhouses in the harbor in Copenhagen that my friend, Audrey from This Little Street, posted on Instagram a few years ago. The colors were so beautiful, and all the little roofs in a row were so cute together. The project idea just popped into my head, and I feel like it’s a really unique project that turned out just as darling as I pictured it. I’m sure you can attest to the fact that that’s not always the case with projects!

My favorite recipe is harder. A lot of the recipes in the book are from my family, so when I read them or make them, they remind me of people I love. The Maple Pecan Rings in the brunch chapter are a favorite of everyone in my family. They’re my mom’s specialty. She only makes them for special occasions and special visitors, so if she makes them for you, you have to feel pretty important. And they’re really, really delicious and quite stunning.

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Lisa: The book has a really gorgeous combination of styled photos and bright, graphic illustrations. I especially love the illustrations! How did you find the illustrator Andrea Smith and what was it about her work that made you select her?

Melissa: I feel like Andrea’s illustrations really bring the book to life! I’m so lucky to have happened upon her work. I was struggling early on with the aesthetic for the book. I couldn’t picture it in my head, but I could imagine how I wanted it to feel, if that makes any sense. I wanted it to be white, but not stark or ascetic. I wanted color, but not too much color. I wanted it to look fresh but not too modern, timeless but not old or dated. I was on Pinterest one day and typed in “Scandinavian folk art” just to try to get a little inspiration, and an illustration Andrea had done for someone popped up. Which is crazy because the illustration wasn’t particularly Scandinavian, Andrea’s not Scandinavian, and the client wasn’t Scandinavian. But seeing that illustration was like a zing straight to my heart. THAT was how I wanted the book to feel. It was kismet.

I think what really spoke to me was the folk art quality of her work, but done in a fresh, modern, way. Her designs somehow look new and heritage at the same time. And the colors she uses are just gorgeous. They’re such a great combination of brights and pastels. I knew I wanted a lot of white in the book with pops of color, and her illustrations are exactly that

Lisa: Best thing about being Scandinavian?

Melissa: As adult, I would say it’s a connection to that culture that is world-renowned for being friendly and happy and pleasant. But as a kid, we always loved that we had Viking blood!

Lisa: Thank you Melissa! It’s been great chatting with you! I’m going to make some of your crafts and recipes in the next month for the holidays!

And friends, you can get Melissa’s book here, at your local bookstore, or wherever books are sold.

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Andrea Pippins

10/25/16

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I’m so excited to share with you today an interview with illustrator, designer and author Andrea Pippins. Her latest book, Becoming Me, was released earlier this month.  Becoming Me is a book for for young women to color, doodle, and brainstorm their way to a creative life. Just months earlier, in November 2015 Andrea published her first book, I Love My Hair, a coloring book featuring her illustrations celebrating hairstyles and textures.

Andrea is a former professor of graphic design who now makes a full time living illustrating. Andrea works for clients around the world, and currently lives with her boyfriend in Stockholm Sweden. She’s on a book tour at the moment, which you can read about here.

Andrea is one of the most driven and inspiring illustrators I’ve encountered in a long time, not just because she makes beautiful work, but because her work is driven by her vision and values. In her own words, “My vision is to empower women and girls of color and people in marginalized communities with visual tools to own and tell their own stories.”

And with that I present to you my latest Interview with Someone I Admire: the amazing Andrea Pippins.

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Lisa: Tell us a little bit about yourself! What’s your story? How did you become a designer or illustrator?

Andrea: I spent my early years, from the age of six months to four years, in a sewing studio in the Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Georgetown. It was run by a French woman named Solange Cody and was occupied by a team of four women who spent their days constructing, hemming, and altering clothes. These ladies, except for one African-American woman, were all immigrants—including my mother who’s from Brazil. While my mother was sewing and fitting clothes I would be drawing and coloring for hours. I believe that space planted seeds for my own creativity, my love for textiles, patterns and color, and my desire to become an entrepreneur. But that all would come together much later.

I didn’t really know about graphic design until I saw Halle Berry playing the role of Angela in the film Boomerang. Angela was an art director and artist, and it was my first time seeing a woman of color doing that kind of work. Even though it was fiction, it blew me away. But it wasn’t until I started applying for college that I really learned about careers in graphic design, or what was then called commercial art or graphic art. I applied to Tyler School of Art at Temple University and after several tries, because of a lackluster portfolio, I was finally accepted into the design program.

After working as a graphic designer at companies like Hallmark Cards and TV Land/Nick@Nite I returned to Tyler and graduated with an MFA in Graphic and Interactive Design so I could teach design on a college level. After several years as a full-time assistant professor, teaching courses in graphic design I decided to take a leap of faith and pursue a path as a full-time freelance designer and illustrator. Currently, my work is transitioning from graphic design to a focus on art and illustration. I’ve always solved design problems with illustration, not realizing that that is where my skills and talent flourish.

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Lisa: How did your latest book Becoming Me come to be?

Andrea: The inspiration behind Becoming Me was to create a an interactive resource to help people along the process of self-discovery through creative expression. Becoming Me is also a resource for living a creative life daily. Even if you’re not a visual kind of creative person (painting, drawing, etc.), Becoming Me is a great space for collecting your ideas and inspirations.

The idea came about soon after the release of I Love My Hair when the publisher and I had a discussion of what the next book should be. We didn’t feel another coloring book was the right way to go but maybe the idea of what a coloring book might evolve into. So after some discussions and some proposed ideas we thought it would be cool to create a tool for young people, especially girls, that they could use to develop their creative skills while exploring who they are. This brings together a lot of what I learned as a designer, illustrator, and educator about being creative and inspired.

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Lisa: Who is this book for? Why was writing a book on living a creative life important to you?

Andrea: Anyone can use this book, but I had young women in mind when I was working on the various pages. I was thinking about creating something I would’ve wanted to see when I was a teen. Back then I was so hungry for information about art and looking for guidance to explore my creativity, and since this was before the Internet I relied on teaching myself. I loved art but didn’t really have access to the outlets to develop my skills. A book like Becoming Me would have been a great resource to empower me with some ideas of what I could I do with my skills and/or what it means to live a creative life.

So this book is for that young person who may need the same guidance. But Becoming Me can also be used by someone who may need inspiration for personal projects, or someone who just wants to color and create.

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Lisa: What was the process of making the book like? How long did it take? What were the most exciting, enjoyable aspects? What were the most challenging or difficult for you?

Andrea: Because of traveling and outside deadlines I basically finished this book just over two months. It was really fast and intense but I got it done.

Luckily, because I’ve always used creative prompts with my students, in workshops, and for myself I had a list of ideas already in place that I could use.

It was exciting and important for me to include quotes from diverse women, and to celebrate the artists who inspired me. But most importantly to include space where readers can write down their dreams.

It was difficult to get the book done in such a short period of time. And designing the book cover was a creative challenge for me. The publisher and I had different ideas on what the cover should look like but after a lot of trial and error we found a happy medium. We struggled with getting all the necessary info on the cover without it looking too crowded and creating an image that fully reflected what one might find in the book. It’s more than a journal it’s more than activities, but how do you say that visually? So we went more abstract with watercolor swashes and doodles, which I love.

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Lisa: The cover turned out beautifully (and covers are always one of the hardest parts of making a book!). I also love the page of your favorite artists. What a great way to expose young women to new heroines! What is your favorite activity in the book?

Andrea: The writing prompts are some of my favorites, especially the ones about writing down your dreams. I believe there’s a lot of power in writing down your dreams so it was very important for me to include space that readers could use to document what they’d like to see happen in the future.

But my absolute favorite activities are the ones dedicated to looking at art. This is a section that gives guidance on analyzing art whether one is going to a museum, gallery, or looking at art online. I tried to write it in a way that would allow anyone to interpret what they see. In that section I also share some of my favorite artists with some exercises encouraging readers to try creating art like those artists, for example collaging like the amazing Mickalene Thomas or making dots like Yayoi Kusama. These are exercises that give the reader an opportunity to play and experiment.

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Lisa: This is your second book! Tell us about your first book, which came out earlier this year.

Andrea: I know it’s so crazy. Two books in one year!! I Love My Hair happened when I met an art director at Random House and sent her some ideas for a coloring book last spring, none of which had anything to do with hair. After looking at my artwork, she responded asking if I’d be interested in doing a coloring book about hair, and I said, “OMG of course.” I didn’t have a specific plan of what to include, I just knew that I wanted it to be fun and that I wanted to show a wide range of hairstyles and ideas of hair There were 84 pages to fill, so it was a (great) creative challenge to figure out what would be interesting and what would work in terms of filling it with color. Because “hair” is so specific, and because I didn’t want it to be just about hairstyles, I had to be creative in my interpretations. So I explored abstract representations, lettering, and accessories and tools related to hair.

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(Andrea’s fans send her photos from I Love My Hair!)

But a little background, “I Love My Hair” started as a social campaign for a design thesis project while I was in graduate school. Our topic was social awareness, which inspired me to focus on the revived natural hair movement that was just starting to take off. During that time I was really intrigued by the black beauty industry and how much money black women, all over the world, spend on hair care products. At the time I had been natural for seven years and loved it, and wondered how the industry would change if more women of color embraced their coils and went natural as well. So that project allowed me to explore that idea visually. Soon after, those graphics became art prints and tees, and now the I Love My Hair coloring book. The book continues to celebrate my love for black hair while exploring other elements of my artistic interests.

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Lisa: You are currently living my dream of living in Stockholm, Sweden. I’m so jealous. How did this happen and what’s it like living there after living in Baltimore, MD?

Andrea: I didn’t know that was your dream! You should totally come and visit me. It’s funny because a little over a year ago Sweden was not on my radar at all. But I moved to Stockholm for love. It is not an official move yet. But I met my partner, who is Swedish, last year, and we have been going back and forth since then.

Being in Europe is amazing! Stockholm is such a beautiful city. What a great place to be for an artist and designer. Over the summer I was renting in a studio loft space inside of a boutique and it was a great way to connect with the creative community and make new friends. My commute was literary 5 minutes door to door and I would pinch myself every time thinking, “OMG, I’m walking down this cobblestone street in this quaint and cute artsy neighborhood in Stockholm to my cute little studio to work.”

As I’m responding to these interview questions I am back in the states for a little bit to promote Becoming Me.

Baltimore is a fantastic city going through so many changes. It was hard to leave during these transformative times, especially since I enjoyed being a part of the tight-knit creative community there. My guy likes Baltimore as well, so who knows we may live in the states one day and make Baltimore our next home.

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Lisa: I may be coming back to Stockholm this summer for a wedding. I’ll keep you posted! Tell us about some of the other illustration work and projects you’ve been enjoying over the past year.

Andrea: Aside from the books, in the last year I’ve gotten to work on some amazing projects. I was commissioned to do an illustration of Alicia Keys for Lenny Letter. That was a lot of fun. I also was invited to submit some illustrations for the museum shop at the new National Museum of African American History & Culture. For that project I created illustrations for their design team to use on product. The illustrations were inspired by the collections that celebrate the African American contribution to performance arts and music.
I did not have the final say on how the illustrations were applied and on what product they were applied to. So I didn’t know what was going to be produced.
On opening day of the museum I went to the museum shop and there was an entire section of my illustration on products like socks, coasters, keychains, magnets, t-shirts, and mugs. I couldn’t believe it! I wasn’t expecting that, it was so fun to see.
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(Andrea’s mural at Brown Betty Dessert Boutique in Philadelphia)

Lisa: Part of what I love about what you do is that you are clearly a mission-driven artist. That is, it’s obvious that you want to be a positive force in the world through the things you create. What is your mission? What drives the part of your creative process? Where does this come from do you think?

Andrea: My mission is to create what I want to see. The nature of my work has always been from a place of wanting to see myself and my stories reflected in illustration, books, art, and media which is why I started my blog and why I focus on the topics that I do. I believe that when we see reflections of ourselves our stores and experiences are validated. So I look for my work to be a voice for many.

My vision is to empower women and girls of color and people in marginalized communities with visual tools to own and tell their own stories. As an author and educator my ultimate goal is to create spaces and platforms that allow these specific audiences to learn to take control of the narrative of their lives. Helping them understand that they get to dictate who they are and what they want to do, and the power in believing that truth.

Lisa: Thank you so much for this interview! Where can people find you online?

Andrea: Thank you, Lisa, I love your questions. People can find my online portfolio at andreapippins.com , my blog: flygirlblog.com and follow me on: twitter.com/andreagpippins and instagram: @andreapippins. And for Becoming Me book tour info visit http://andreapippins.com/book-tour

Thanks Lisa!

Lisa: Thank you, Andrea!!

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Rachel Ignotofsky

09/06/16

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I am so happy to present to you today my latest in my series of Interviews with People I Admire, the amazing Rachel Ignotofsky, who has just published her first book through Ten Speed Press entitled Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World. I love this book not only because it focuses on often-hidden-from-history female scientists, but also because it’s beautifully researched, written and illustrated. This book is for all ages, but as Rachel points out in the interview, it’s especially awesome for young girls and teens who are interested in science. A book of brilliant role models for girls? Sign me up!

Rachel is an accomplished illustrator, who has worked for many impressive clients. Her career began right out of college as a designer at Hallmark. Now freelancing full time, Rachel’s work is inspired by history and science. She believes that illustration is a powerful tool that can make learning exciting. She has a passion for (and is incredibly good at) taking dense information and making accessible for readers young and old alike! Want to learn more about Rachel and her book? Ready, set, go…

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Lisa: Tell us about you! What’s your background? Where are you from? How did you become an illustrator and author?

Rachel: I was born and raised in New Jersey and I have been drawing ever since I can remember. In high school I decided to seriously become an illustrator and started prepping my portfolio for art school. I went to Tyler School of Art and graduated with a BFA in Graphic Design. Right out of school I was hired by Hallmark and moved to Kansas City, where I am based now. I left Hallmark to pursue my real passion, which was scientific illustration. I have always had a passion for history and science and now I dedicate myself to creating educational artwork that is both fun and jammed packed with information.

Although drawing came really naturally to me, reading was a different story. I was an incredibly slow reader in elementary school. It really wasn’t until I started reading densely illustrated books like Amelia’s Notebook, educational comic books and cartoons like Magic School Bus, that I gained my own love of learning. I wanted to make the same kind of books that I had so much fun reading as a kid and think are important as an adult. I always had in the back of my mind that my illustrations were part of a larger book project and when the opportunity came knocking I was ready.

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{This is Rachel!}

Lisa: How did this book come to be?

Rachel: I was thinking a lot about why science and engineering is still considered such a “boys club.”  I have a lot of friends in education and we were talking about the massive gender gap in STEM fields even though girls test just as well as boys do in math and science.  I truly believe that one of the best ways to fight gender bias like this is by introducing young adults to strong female role models.

I started to dig and I was overwhelmed by the amount of female scientist who have contributed just as much (if not more) as Einstein or Tesla. but have landed in obscurity. So I decided to use my illustrations to help celebrate women and their accomplishments. Illustration is a powerful tool when it comes to telling stories.  I wanted this book to not only be educational but also have tons of illustrations, so the reader really has fun while they are learning. My hope for my book is to help make these women household names and encourage girls to follow always their passions.

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I love learning about the mechanics of how your world works. Ever since my high school human anatomy class I was seriously hooked on science. Whether or not you are going to pursue a STEM career, knowing how our world works empowers people to make educated decisions. Whether it is how the lights turn on, or why it rains outside, or why use tooth paste, it is all important. But I think people get scared when approaching dense subjects. A lot of kids and adults hear “astrophysics” or “x-ray crystallography” and think “Woah! That is too smart for me.” Through art work I want to take those subjects and make them accessible and fun! If you can make learning easy, all of the sudden people get the courage to learn even and all of the sudden they realize that they are capable of understanding even the densest subjects.

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Lisa: What was the most exciting, enjoyable part of the process of making the book? Conversely, what was the most difficult or frustrating?

Rachel: I loved learning these women’s stories. You read about everything the accomplished, the lives they saved and how much they had to overcome to contribute and you just feel so indebted to them. And of course the drawings, I always have a lot of fun with that.

I think the most frustrating things was figuring out who I was as a writer, what habits and what organizational systems work for me. It was the first time I ever authored anything. Whether or not I am “feeling creative” I can do a really cool illustration, because I have been doing it for so long. I just have the years of practice under my belt that help make good decisions while I work. That is not the case with writing. A good day means good writing and a bad day means bad writing. I learned a lot of little things, like I write best in the morning, or after a big meal. Silly stuff like that makes the world of difference when you are trying to churn out 500-1000 words a day. I bet in ten years it’ll come as naturally as drawing does, but until then I am going to wake up and eat a lot of pancakes and coffee to get creativity going.

Marie Curie - p29

Lisa: Which of the women in the book surprised you the most?

Rachel: I think one of the most shocking stories was Lisa Meitner. Just how much she had to overcome and that she still made one of the greatest discoveries in the history of science, Fission. She would be forced flee Germany when the Nazi came into power because she was Jewish. At the time Lise was trying to discover a new heavy element with her lab partner Otto Hahn. They were smashing neutrons against uranium and the result they were getting were out of the ordinary. Although she found asylum in Sweden she did not want to leave her work in Germany behind.

She wrote secret letters to Otto to continue their work. When Otto did not understand the results of their experiment he wrote to Lise. She realized they were in fact stretching the nucleus apart and releasing nuclear energy! Her discovery of fission changed physics, energy and history forever. It is amazing, after all she went through it was her sheer love of science that kept her working, and allowed her to contribute greatly to the world, even if it was in secret. She could not return to Germany and was not included in the Nobel Prize for her discovery.

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Lisa: Which one woman in the book would you most like to have dinner with and why?

Rachel: Ooh, that is a good one. I think Sylvia Earle is one of my top picks. She is the marine biologist who broke the depth record for an untethered dive and has explored so much of our deep ocean. I would love to hear more about her life time of work, from living on tektite II under water for weeks, to when she was called the “sturgeon general” at NOAA, to her main project now called Mission Blue. Mission Blue is a conservation project much like the protected parks, but instead it is protected parts of the ocean. We get most of our oxygen from the ocean, and a healthy ocean is essential to our survival. She is working to try and stop the over fishing and pollution that is damaging the ocean’s ecosystems. Sylvia Earle’s research and photography has made even the deepest parts of the ocean more accessible, it is just fascinating!

Hypatia - p9

Lisa: I know the book is for everyone, but who do you most hope reads this book?

Rachel: I think middle school girls and boys. Middle school is that important age where you are start figuring out who you want to become. I think it is essential for both boys and girls to have strong female role models growing up. Children need to know that they can pursue their passions and make a real impact on this world regardless of gender.

Lisa: What do you hope people take away from the book?

Rachel: That women in the sciences is not something new. That throughout history women have been working hard and greatly contributing to progress. I am hoping that my book is part of a larger movement to make these historic women’s stories more available and help to normalize women in stem fields and positions of power. when a little girl closes her eyes, and imagines what a scientist looks like, she can see herself.

Lisa: Thank you, Rachel!! You are so inspiring!! And I love this book. Friends, you can get Women in Science here or at all major book sellers!

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George McCalman

06/28/16

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I am so thrilled to share with you my most recent recorded interview — this one with my friend George McCalman, one of the most prolific and inspiring artists living today. After fourteen years as an art director in the magazine industry, working for publications like ReadyMade, Mother Jones, and Entertainment Weekly, George opened his freelance design studio in 2011. Now, in addition to design, George is also channeling his creative juju and enormous talent into hand drawn and painted illustration and type. He uses this enormous talent not only to work for clients, but also to document his life and passions through personal projects. We sat down and talked about his roots, what inspires him, the recent changes in his path and what he’s learned about what makes him tick creatively over the years. George is a fantastic conversationalist, and I know you will be inspired by his attitude and story. Just click play on the MP3 player below and enjoy photos of George’s work below (much of which we refer to in the interview). A great place to follow George is on Instagram, where he openly shares his creative process and work. I present to you the latest in my Interviews with people I Admire series, George McCalman!

 

MCCALMAN.Co MOOD BOARD

I LOVE YOU POSTER

MADARA POSTER

GEORGE MCCALMAN SENIOR

A GREATNESS OF SPIRIT POSTER

BlACK HISTORY 1

BLACK HISTORY 2

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Samantha Hahn

05/31/16

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Friends, I am so excited to launch the next phase of Interviews with People I Admire: recorded interviews! I’m not calling this a podcast (you won’t find links to the interviews anywhere but on my blog for now). But it’s a format I’m testing out for the time being. I think recorded interviews will give you a richer perspective into the creative process of the folks I feature here!

Today I am so happy to share an interview with my good friend, Illustrator Samantha Hahn. Samantha is an illustrator from Brooklyn, New York, best known for her beautiful ethereal watercolor portraits of the female figure. Not surprisingly, many of her clients include iconic fashion industry labels and magazines like Marc Jacobs, J Crew, Glamour, Elle, Marie Claire — the list goes on and on. She is also the author of two gorgeous books, Well Read Women and A Mother is a Story. Below I have shared photos of her latest book and some of her work so you can get a flavor for her style.

In the interview Samantha and I talk about her work and inspiration, but most interestingly, about “the other side of success” — what happens when you work hard to pursue a career in illustration and then, as you’d always dreamed of, you become a busy illustrator. We discuss what we thought that would look like for us and what the realities have ended up being.

Just click on the play button below to begin listening! The interview is about 53 minutes long.

Samantha’s latest gorgeous new book: A Mother is a Story (and the companion journal).

A Mother is a Story and Stories for my Child_ journal and book coverSamantha Hahn

Samantha’s first book, Well Read Women: Portraits of Fiction’s Most Beloved Heriones

well read women COVER

Images from the interior of A Mother is a Story:

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